By Will Hassel, Glenwood Springs Middle School Student
From the beginning of middle school, I have been involved in various teams and clubs that all have some connection to water. In 6th grade, half of the year was devoted to a unit on rivers. Nate Higginson, from the Middle Colorado Watershed Council took this opportunity to form a River Watch Club for Glenwood Springs Middle School. A couple of friends and I went out once a week to collect and analyze the water from streams near the school. The following year, I got to do a presentation at the first Youth Water Summit about Two Rivers Park and water quality there. I was interested in the program, so Rob Buirgy, the teacher who helped me with the presentation, gave me the information about the leader team.
I thought that the team would be composed of ten or so middle schoolers doing nothing and one adult that would do everything. I imagined that everything would be planned out, like a classroom lesson and that we would make minimal progress in a long span of time.
It turned out that there were many different ages of participants: 8th graders, high schoolers, and college interns. When we met in the fall to start planning for the summit, it felt like everyone had an idea to pitch in or a thought to share. It was super cool to see everyone come together.
I think that the main thing that I learned from this experience is that I have the power to do what I think is right. When I had an idea and participated in discussion, everyone listened and actually thought about my input. When I presented my group’s Lens on Climate Change film (Green Skis) at the Healthy Rivers Youth Water Summit, there were a lot of strangers, as well as people that I knew that asked a lot of questions. These questions gave me a reason to think deeper about my topics, which allowed me to understand them better. Everyone in the room was watching, which proves that they care. Similarly, when I was watching other students’ presentations, I saw that they too were having an impact on everyone else in the room.
This was an amazing experience, and I think that it was a great opportunity for me to learn and grow.
Author Will Hassel served on the Youth Water Leadership Program's 2018 Summit Leader Team and is a student at Glenwood Springs Middle School in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.